Audiobook Review | The Hunger by Alma Katsu

The Hunger
by Alma Katsu; narrated by Kirsten Potter

Evil is invisible, and it is everywhere.

Tamsen Donner must be a witch. That is the only way to explain the series of misfortunes that have plagued the wagon train known as the Donner Party. Depleted rations, bitter quarrels, and the mysterious death of a little boy have driven the pioneers to the brink of madness. They cannot escape the feeling that someone–or something–is stalking them. Whether it was a curse from the beautiful Tamsen, the choice to follow a disastrous experimental route West, or just plain bad luck–the 90 men, women, and children of the Donner Party are at the brink of one of the deadliest and most disastrous western adventures in American history.

While the ill-fated group struggles to survive in the treacherous mountain conditions–searing heat that turns the sand into bubbling stew; snows that freeze the oxen where they stand–evil begins to grow around them, and within them. As members of the party begin to disappear, they must ask themselves “What if there is something waiting in the mountains? Something disturbing and diseased…and very hungry?”

My Rating:

Blackwell’s | Bookshop | Wordery

It’s no secret that I’m wary of novels that retell or reimagine historical events and people with speculative elements, but I’ve been intrigued by Alma Katsu’s horror reimaginings for a little while now and couldn’t resist giving The Hunger a try when I came across the audiobook on BorrowBox.

The Hunger works for me as a retelling because it’s not based on an event in history I know an awful lot about – I learned practically nothing about American history that didn’t involve a 20th century war at school – so I’m not close enough to the story of the Donner Party for a horror reimagining to make me uncomfortable the way a reimagining of British history might, such as the countless times I’m put off novels because Jack the Ripper makes an appearance. Instead, The Hunger‘s done what I think all good reimaginings should do, aside from entertain, in that it’s made me want to learn more about the true history that inspired it.

As a work of horror fiction, The Hunger is nothing ground-breaking. A group of people slowly turning on one another while they’re being pursued by what appears to be some kind of supernatural force is one of the genre’s sturdiest scenarios, because horror isn’t really there to make us scared of the other, it’s there to hold up a mirror and show us our own capacity for terror. Katsu truly excels at this, though. There are so many characters in this novel but they never blend into one another, and I spent a lot of my time experiencing this story thinking how brilliant it would be if it were adapted into a miniseries because I could picture everything so clearly.

I’d highly recommend reading this novel via audiobook if you can. Part of the reason I enjoyed The Hunger so much is that I listened to it during two four-hour coach journeys to London and back at the beginning of January, when it was freezing cold and pitch black outside. Reading this book in the middle of winter heightens the atmosphere so much, and Katsu managed to write this story in a way that the suspense is never lost even though we know what became of the Donner Party. I adored Kirsten Potter’s narration—I’ll be checking out what other audiobooks she’s done—and I’ll certainly be reading more of Katsu’s work in future, too.

If you’re a fan of historical horror or tales of people lost in the wilderness, you need this book on your shelf.

5 thoughts on “Audiobook Review | The Hunger by Alma Katsu

  1. Lisa @ Bookshelf Fantasies says:

    I’ve had this book on my TBR for ages now. Maybe I’ll try the audio, since you recommend it! Like some of the other commenters, living in California, I’m pretty familiar with the story of the Donner Party, have read an historical fiction book about them, and my daughter even did a research paper on the topic back in middle school! So, it’s not exactly new for me, but I’m still interested in seeing how this gets turned into horror with a supernatural twist!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Aj @ Read All The Things! says:

    I learned about the Donner Party in school, but that’s probably because I live in the western US. I even saw some of the Donner Party’s stuff in a museum when I visited California. I really liked The Hunger. I think it was a unique take on the events. If you’re interested in nonfiction about the Donners, The Indifferent Stars Above is interesting. And terrifying.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Nicole @ BookWyrmKnits says:

    Thanks for the review! I won’t be picking this one up (horror is not really my thing) but it’s neat to see that this retelling was done well. As a Californian, we got a teeny bit more about the Donner Party in schools, but even so I don’t know a lot about what happened. If I was feeling up to horror novels, this could be a really interesting historical horror to read.

    Liked by 1 person

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